A lot of local bands like to play through a long riff or chord progression before starting a first song of an EP, but Sleeping Seasons waste no time during the first two tracks of their “Tired Bodies” release, which was dropped Feb. 23 to a packed room of local listeners.
Vocalist C.J. Starnes jumps in with the rest of the instrumentation on both “Better Than I Should Be” and “Eighteen,” and with good reason. Starnes’ ability to shift between a soft croon and an appropriately raspy tone sets the singer as a great vessel for the emo/alternative songwriting that this Memphis band offers on their first official release.
While Starnes’ vocal timbre is more reminiscent of Andy Hull of Manchester Orchestra than it is Don Henley of The Eagles, the application of raspiness in key phrases and crescendos (for lack of a better term) screams Henley. The soft/scratchy juxtaposition is most distinguishable on the verses of the third track “Godspeed” as Starnes croons “How absurd, it is to live in this treehouse, that builds the faith to live in this world” and then turns on the rasp with “I’ll take it slower than this.”
Instrumentally, “Godspeed” also features the most ear-catchy rhythm guitar riff in local alternative music memory. Guitarist Julian Stanz weaves around Starnes and bassist Chloie Pennington with a fast and beautifully effective lead melody throughout the riff. The memorable pattern moves between chords, shaping a progression that leaves the listener feeling gorgeously remorseful (told you it was Emo.) Drummer Tom Hale steers behind the power chord-driven pre-chorus of the track with tasteful double-bass-work before the chorus hits with “God’s speed be with you wherever you may find yourself without me.”
The rhythmic accents of fourth track “Pocketsand” makes Seasons sound a bit more like Paramore, but instead of Hayley Williams’ voice the Sleeping Seasons sound returns with Starnes singing “All my friends are jumping off of bridges. I try to save ‘em.” More moody subject matter continues into the chorus with “I love you today more than any other day, but by morning I’ll be on my way.”
Pre-chorus tempo changes are what “Pocketsand” somewhat of a standout track on “Tired Bodies” as faint, slidy guitar work reminiscent of Atlanta band Microwave usher in louder and louder parts. More rhythm changes through octave-chord-breaks and a surprise guitar solo around the two minute mark hint at a slight My Chemical Romance influence - “Pocketsand” is definitely the busiest and most intricate song on the EP.
Though the term “Emo” hasn’t been in chic in the mainstream music scene since the 2000’s, Sleeping Seasons do it right. With tight production courtesy of Cody Landers and thoughtful lyrical phrasing that avoid the cliches of the genre, “Tired Bodies” is a 2017 “Emo” contender that if tripled in length would stand toe-to-toe with the classics. For now Sleeping Seasons is making Memphis Emo again. It remains to be seen if they’ll take on America with eyeliner.